Steampunk Town, Tallakhe
Bald, but with a thick black beard and menacing black eyes and a bulk of a body, the professor entered the classroom in a hurry, sighing as he leant against his desk in front of the class. The inverted cone room was one of the few of the university fit for enormous groups of students, though not many attended his class. He eyed them silently and folded his arms. They were spread thin across the room, only a few of them sitting in pairs or threes.
"Welcome back to your fourth year," he said. They all nodded, no one saying a word. The professor sighed. "This year is the year we study the Forgotten Wars more closely. How interested are you?" The class murmured something unintelligible. It was their first day back and no other class was any different. "Very well. No cooperation today." He frowned. "Do any of you like the idea of dragons being in this world?" Everyone sloppily raised their hands. "Well, then, why are you so disinterested?"
"It's hot and we are not fully prepared to actually start thinking after having rested for so long," one of the male students said.
"Yeah," another one concurred.
"Oh, look... they speak," the professor said. The whole class grumbled all together. Only one was still and silent, though the look in her eyes said that, though she was interested, she was also too tired. He sighed. If even his most eager student of the class was so dead, he should leave them be. "Very well. I'll just make the short intro." He took in a deep breath before he began. "So, dragons, as you know, have lived alongside all other species since, well, the beginning of the planet. There was the Order of the Riders, those trained to really live with the dragons and make use of them as much as they allowed. It was all peaceful until the people became a little too greedy. They knew of dragonskin and dragonscale properties and how useful those, as well as dragonbone items would be. Therefore, they started killing dragons." He sighed. "The Order of the Dragonslayer was created and the best ones were titled the Dragonbane. The killings lead to the first war, where many people died and the Order vanished with many a dragon. No major changes there. Arxes, the dragon king, created a border which would kill all men who pass."
"However, since man is a man, magic was found for the first time after the Wielders whose knowledge was lost. Then another war came along. The king remained alive with all his dragons and a few of the Riders he trusted by their side and set out to the ocean. He destroyed countless men while only a few dragons fell and then went forward and into the third war, which was basically just bloody carnage, more than half the humanoid population was burnt and pushed back since about half the continent was sunk or utterly destroyed by the fires."
"Skrit the Kingslayer, called Kingsley for short, was a man no one had ever seen and one who came out of the blue as opposed to the red destroying us from the other side." The professor scratched his bald head. "Well, Kingsley was said to be a golem, a giant, a titan, even. They said he came from the flames without a single burn, which would indicate he was a titan, after all. Anyway, after Kingsley killed Arxes, the world was damaged even more, the population and land shrinking to roughly today's number and size." He sighed. "Well, that's the summary of this year's curriculum." He glanced at the loudly ticking clock above the door. "We have wasted roughly ten minutes. What now?"
"Let us go home," one of the female students said. "So we can rest before we die some more in our next classes. These chairs are uncomfortable and the desks are no pillows." The professor rolled his eyes.
"Very well," he said. "You are free to leave." The students, which were not so long ago like sloths, suddenly became like rabbits, jumping up from their seats and rushing home. The professor laughed with arms folded over his chest. The last one to stand up was the one he knew as a dragon enthusiast, C Browne. She was one of the rare ones to have a single letter name in the modern day. It had been common practice in the past, though.
The flame-haired girl with untamed curls trotted slowly down the many stairs to the bottom of the room, having sat at the top as always. "Professor Akeboshi," she said as she stopped before him. The name rolled strangely off her tongue even after three years of history class.
"What is it, C?" he asked.
"You know, this is a forbidden topic since the beginning, but I waited till my fourth year," she said. "Since we study about dragons, I believe it makes it less of a crime now." She ran a hand through her hair. "You remember thirteen years ago, right? The earthquake?" He nodded, listening in silence. "Well, did it mean dragons have returned? The event reminds of what happened when Arxes was slain, doesn't it?" Akeboshi scratched his head.
"It does, indeed, though it had a much weaker effect on us, but every leader wishes the world to keep silent. Kingsley Valley is still dreaded, even though there are only the remains. They do not want anyone to take interest in such things so as not to go there. They do not want dragons to be and wish at least for silence about it," he said. "Actually, I've been planning on going there in a week. They allowed me to take time off for research, as I am a historian, as well." He sighed. "They complained about it not being earlier or in the summer, at least, but, of course, I said this was only a recent discovery."
"Why have you waited all these years?" she said.
"I needed to gather up some money on the side from my job," he replied. "I'll need to carry a lot of things with me and I simply have to be able to finance it all properly. Also, I only came here about five years ago."
"Who's going to teach us, then?" she said.
"I don't know." He shrugged and spun around, sitting at his desk. "I'll let you know when the two other teachers decide amongst themselves. Go home now and rest for your next lesson." She shrugged.
"Sure. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it," she said, nodded and left quickly, hearing the professor sigh again.
Her home was near, her cat nearer. Meyu meowed and hurried over to her owner. She had been locked outside, most likely, so as not to bother C's mother in her daily rituals. Meyu squeezed through the door before C opened it widely enough for herself, hurrying over to her spot on the kitchen window. The girl sighed and locked the door behind her, tossing her half-empty bag onto the spotless kitchen table and hurried upstairs to the rooms. She glanced to her right as she passed by the first room, which remained empty and locked, the key hanging around her mother's neck. It was her late father's study and her mother strictly forbade entry.
C knocked lightly on the door to her parents' room next to the study - a room only used by her mother. A sob louder than the other, constant sobs called her inside. She threw the door open and sighed at the sight of her mother sitting on her knees on the bed, praying in front of the urn of her husband's ashes standing on a simple shelf above the bed's headboard. "Mother, it's been a week. Stop the nonsense already."
"I've decided to make it two weeks," her mother replied, not turning away from the black square stone container. "Do you not think your father deserves it?"
"You're just lazy and have no friends anymore, so you spend all your time here," C snapped. "Also, don't ever leave Meyu out again." She stepped backwards and shut the door, grumbling to herself. She found Meyu sitting at her feet and looking up. She shrugged to the cat and walked back downstairs. The black cat followed.
She sat at the table and immersed herself halfway in her thoughts. Meyu curled up in her lap, purring. What if she left? Her mother would dehydrate and starve. Even now she was eating too little. C stood up, the poor cat meowing in surprise and jumping off after futilely trying to hold on. I just might be able to leave.
The university was near. She lived near the centre, ten minutes of quick pace away. Her bag was almost flying away from her as she marched forward, finally coming to a stop in front of the large gate. The sun was as merciless as the shade of the building inside its yard was merciful. She panted for a brief moment, seeing the yard was empty. The first class was still in progress and no one was arriving to start their day with the second class.
She climbed three stairways to the top of the building where the principal and all the professors' cabinets were. That was where they went between classes and where Akeboshi should be. Having already been there several times throughout the last three years, she knew where she was going, trying to walk as quietly as possible in the eerily silent corridors.
She knocked on the door with his name, the door opening moments later. His head all wrinkled up as he frowned, stepping aside to let her in. "What is it?" he managed to ask as she sat down in a chair by his desk.
"Next week, you're going off to the Valley?" she asked, though it was more of a statement.
"Yes," he said.
"Is there any chance I could go with you?" she asked. He frowned.
"But you need a lot of things to carry and enough money to take with you. You also need a horse," he said. "And you cannot just leave university and not attend classes."
"Living in the centre, especially in the capital, isn't cheap," she said with a light shrug. "I have enough money. Also, you could write me down as your assistant, right? I've had top grades in history, after all. We were told about this back when we were freshmen. I've already been on a few trips with professor Reh. She teaches Classical Tallakhean."
"Yes, I know who Reh is," he said.
"So, will you try and see if I can tag along?" she asked, grinning broadly.
"I'll tell you by the end of the week." He sighed, folding his arms. C stood up and bowed her head.
"Thank you, professor," she said and hurried outside. He watched her as she closed the door behind her and sighed again, frowning.